Square Up at Prince Street Pizza in Soho
Nearly a decade into the wood-fired Neapolitan-pizza surge, it seems that square pizza is due for some love. Roman-style pizza has slowly made some inroads into the New York scene, and new joints like Best Pizza and Cotto Bene are both upholding the traditional NYC square styles while also doing something new. Add to that roster Prince Street Pizza, which bills itself as the "Home of the Soho Square."
The classic Sicilian is the "Prince Perfection" ($3.75, above). It's an imposing-looking slice, and if you've had too many leaden Sicilian gutbombs, you could be excused for any wariness. But this slice is remarkably light, its airy crust having risen sufficiently in the pan before baking. It's dimpled on the bottom. There are crunchy, chewy bits where the crust has essentially fried against the oiled metal sheet. There are tender nooks where the pockmarked crust has lifted away from the pan.
Like at celebrated square-pusher L&B Spumoni Gardens, the cheese at Prince Street—fresh mozzarella—is layered directly on the dough and under the sauce. This makes for a unique overall texture, with a crisp bottom and a soft, squishy middle, all beneath a thick, chunky flavorful tomato sauce.
My only complaint is that overall this slice runs a little sweet, but you can remedy that with a shake of Parmesan.
Sfincione has been getting some love on Slice as of late. It makes an appearance at Prince Street Pizza as well, where it's called the Broadway Breadcrumb ($3.50). Traditional sfincione relies on anchovies for rich, salty-savory flavor. Not here. Prince Street's version omits the pungent little fish—and also forgoes the caciocavallo cheese. The breadcrumb topping, however, remains de rigueur.
This is sfincione for vegans. (UPDATE, 2014-01-26: Per Kenji in comments below, the Broadway Breadcrumb is DEFINITELY NOT VEGAN.) Of the three Sicilians this was my least favorite.
The Spicy Spring ($3.75) at first looks a Prince Perfection with pepperoni, but this slice actually uses a fra diavolo sauce for the red stuff. It's a bit spicier than its more staid menu mate but not in a way that's going to blow your cranium. It's a mild enough that the heat-averse should have no trouble with it. It is a beautiful looking slice, too, with the pepperoni curling under the heat of the oven, and bits of grated cheese baked into the resulting meat cups.
The fried balls are a great little snack, too. I'd normally say rice balls, but one of them is stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, and prosciutto. The other two varieties contain beef rice, peas, and marinara (Sicilian rice balls); and mozzarella, Romano cheese, and rice (Neapolitan rice balls). Sound familiar? They're essentially the rebirth of rice/prosciutto balls from Joe's Superette in Carroll Gardens. The former manager of Joe's, which closed in May 2011 after owner Leo Coldonato died, is making them at Prince Street. All types are $1.25 each.
Prince Street, as you may know, replaced Ray's Pizza (often considered the actual, original Ray's). It has taken over only half the space originally occupied by Ray's—the eastern half of 27 Prince, which was the take-out slice shop half. The sit-down part remains vacant.
Prince has replaced the old Ray's ovens with a new brick-lined Marsal & Sons oven, considered a top-notch choice for gas-fired deck ovens. Though we mourn the passing of a NYC quintessential, the cycle of life brings us new great squares to scarf.